*This ‘Travel archives’ post was written in January 2016
If your life was a book, which chapters would you read again and again? Which chapters would you skip if you could?
On 3rd January 2016 I celebrated ‘2 years on the road’, in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. The place I had started in, back in January 2014. Although some things had come full circle many things had changed. Everything felt different to how it did at the beginning …
With no intention of being away for quite so long, my ‘six month’ solo trip had quickly escalated, covering more countries than anyone involved in the planning ever thought possible. From a family who have always been based happily at home, I broke the mould when setting off on my adventures.
Travel brings feelings, opportunities and experiences that you simply would not have had you stayed at home. In this post I think about what the last two years have done for me and recount some of what I’ve witnessed as the last 730+ days have gone by …
Before travel. Travel sounds complicated. Visas, vaccinations, places to avoid, people to be wary of, how to hide your money in your clothes for a night out, the fear of leaving the people you love and the lifestyle you are familiar with, the list goes on …
But many of these worries are unfounded. We find we need not worry. Complications become swiftly forgotten … for the more you travel, the more you realise; this life is the easy life. Border hopping, getting dodgy transport, living with killer spiders, putting your hands in the life of someone you just met all becomes part of your new ‘routine’. You simply learn to trust yourself more and more each day.
On paper my luck should have run out many times already. In terms of how I used to live back home, how the Government says we should conduct ourselves, how ”Health and Safety” practices have shaped the UK today, you’ll often see me in the’at my own risk’ column. But here I am, two years down the line, writing for my little corner of the web from my little guest house on the Phi Phi Islands.
There is no denying there have a been a handful of hair-raising moments; waking up to find a deranged local man sitting on my pillow in Dot Det, Laos. Gun shots being fired across a car park while I waited for my friend in Salvador, Brazil. On crutches with a sprained ankle and literally no chance of running away, this was not a moment to be cherished in South America.
Being threatened with a gun in Pai, Thailand for having a party ‘after 10pm’ … theres more but these are the times that stick in my mind as the most detatched from the life I knew before travel. Looking back now the fright has faded, they are just crazy memories of life on the road.
Despair hits us all at some point in our lives. During my time away from home I have tragically lost a friend, seen another be brutally attacked, waved heart-wrenching goodbyes to others who have unexpectedly had to cut their travels short. Strife on the road is extremely hard to deal with and something we all wish we could avoid. But in the darkest times you find out who you will always be there for, who is really there for you. Everyone finds strength in the each other, clubbing together to make light of testing circumstances. You adapt to a new way of caring and of the worst situations you form unbreakable bonds.
For every down there has been a hundred ups. The undeniable natural beauty of Queenstown, New Zealand. The current, every day magic of Phi Phi. The perfect two weeks in Gili Trawagan, Indonesia. The unexpected wow factor of Vietnam. The gold dust of Australia. Every country has offered something that the last place didn’t and the next place wouldn’t.
Without question travel improves you as a person, as a human being. The life experience you gain, just from going about your day-to-day changes your whole attitude. Simple things like eating unusual food in a fresh city gives you confidence to do things you wouldn’t normally do (next thing you know you’re diving with sharks!) … Many small things we take for granted on the road come to be the things that make us who we are.
Your confidence soars. Leaving high-flying jobs in London behind me, I had the ”I can do anything” frame of mind already – but travel softens you. Yes, you have confidence but you become more aware of yourself. You learn how to use it, knowing when to show your strengths and when to take a step back. You can’t throw your weight around in a foreign country like you might at home – it.does.not.fly! Locals, respectively, rule their home towns and you quickly get a grip on how to behave in-keeping with communities you pass through.
Your career opportunities broaden, as does your chance to map out your long term future. Booking flights into the unknown has allowed me to further my knowledge of the working world. Securing positions with some of the worlds most trusted brands in Australia and New Zealand gave me an insight into corporate level work away from London. Currently I am part of the team running one of the best hostels in South East Asia … Possibilities on the road are endless.
You meet people from all over the world. And when I say all over I mean all over. Some of my dearest travel friends are Swedish, Dutch, Australian, French, Irish, American, Canadian … the list goes on and on. Friends from different backgrounds bring you so much just by being themselves, its a two-way street though – you do the same for them. Being brought up differently gives you both a chance to learn from each other, often without you even realising until you part ways.
Some of the worst things turn out to be the best. ”How could farming be that good?”. Farming tomatoes in Bundaberg, Australia was a highlight of my life, it always will be. How can working 13 hours a day picking, washing, ‘grading’ and packing tomatoes in the 40 degree heat be ”the best thing ever?”. Sure, its not everyone’s ideal job for 4 months but life is what you make it and every day was as filled with fun as it was with tomatoes! Physically broken and mentally exhausted but quite possibly the happiest our group had collectively ever been every day, that was farming in the outback for us.
You fix yourself. Hit the road single and you’re more than likely to get hurt a few times on the way. Unless you both feel it and are going the same way at the right time you are more than likely going to suffer at some point. But you come out of it a better person than when you met. Road relationships often become lessons of love, loss and moving on with a renewed sense of freedom. Focus eventually always turns back to what this part of your life is really all about – travel!
I know I speak for many when I say this; our friends greatly shape our lives. If you have a handful of dear friends you are a lucky person, there is no doubt about that. Living away from home we meet people every day who we quickly form strong bonds with, we are of the same ilk. Never met before now but we are on the same page – currently looking for the excitement of living for the moment.
These ‘people of today’ are special, some will be in your life forever. Others you had a blast with and you’ll cross paths with again. Travellers become very fortunate people who can rely on go-to’s around the globe, always ready to welcome them with open arms.
Whoever we meet on the road, our oldest friends are never far from our hearts. We grew up together. Just because we are apart doesn’t mean we don’t think of them.
Just because you’re not at home doesn’t mean you don’t love home. Travel can be testing, sometimes you do wish you were on your sofa, cuppa in hand, watching TV with your family. There is no doubt that you miss them but its something you come to terms with and live with on a daily basis.
I didn’t leave home with no intention to return but at the moment I know I am happier out of the UK. It is sometimes frustrating to overhear ”the UK is rubbish”. Ok, so its not for everyone and we all left home for different reasons but home is home. I am proud of where I am from, beautiful little Pembroke in West Wales. I will never forget where I came from and its not something I am trying to shake off along the way.
”I will go home if I need to” is something I say often. When asked what my plans are, I tell I am ”taking it day by day, see what happens”. Knowing full well that everything could change overnight. I could be on a flight back home tomorrow – that fact keeps me on my toes for appreciating what I am doing right now, where I am living, the people I am surrounded by, the work I am able to get involved with.
I see it like this. Travel is a chapter. One I’m not ready to close the page on just yet. I spent 4 years in University, 5 years in London … 2 years on the road doesn’t seem like such a long stint when thought about like that. I fully believe that everyone who has interest in travelling should do it. Many people contact me asking for tips/ advice, the ‘how to’ of it all. I happily help everyone in any way I can but the truth is – if you want something you must go for it and don’t stop until you get where you want to be. It’s up to you to book that first ticket …
Trust yourself, follow your heart, enjoy the people you cross paths with and have a lot of fun along the way – never forget where you came from.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my epic 2 years on the road. You know who you are. You have contributed to making me fall in love with a life I never knew existed.
Thank you for reading this post. To include everything I’ve seen and done over the last two years would be nigh on impossible, there is so much more I perhaps should have included in a 2 year round up but I wanted to reflect on the people, the way places have made me feel, what I’ve learned, the real feeling of being away from home and where I’m ‘going from here’.
I have absolutely no idea how life will pan out but my hopes are pinned on securing sponsorship in Australia and if it doesn’t work out, it just simply isn’t meant to be x